When Richard Hollingshead set up the first drive-in movie theater in Camden, New Jersey in 1933, it sparked a nationwide fad that peaked in the 1950s. At one point, the United States had as many as four thousand, but, due to television and multiplex theaters, that number has dwindled to the mid-300s. The necessity for these these theaters to have digital projectors by the end of 2013 further lowered the amount of working drive-ins.
Here are some of the drive-ins I have encountered along the way:
Shankweiler’s Drive-In, Orefield, PA
Shankweiler’s is the oldest active drive-in theater in the country, and the second in existence, opening in 1934. Fortunately, this theater has thrived in the face of the extinction of so many others.
The Pike Drive-In, Montgomery, PA
Featuring three screens, the Pike opened up in the golden age of the drive-in in 1953. They continue to show movies despite the advent of digital conversion and is among the theaters listed on Honda’s Project Drive-In.
Fingerlakes Drive-In, Auburn, NY
The Fingerlakes Drive-In along US route 20 in between Auburn and Seneca Falls, NY, and is the oldest operating drive-in in the state, continuously operating since 1947. There’s a white picket fence around the theater and a cool red Dodge that sits year round in front of its sign. Unfortunately, this one, too is in need of a digital projector. Their page for donations is located here.
Mahoning Drive-In, Lehighton, PA
The Mahoning Drive-In’s owners of 15 years have recently announced on their Facebook page that they are no longer going to continue in that capacity. Although this one-screen drive-in from 1948 continues to show movies, and the fact that they have a very loyal following, this theater is in real danger. They are also on Honda’s Project Drive-In.
Natalie Drive-In, Natalie, PA
The Natalie Drive-In, high up in Coal Country, this is one of the most elusive drive-ins in terms of history. It was opened prior to 1955, and was part of a chain of theaters that existed in Mt. Carmel, Hometown, Shamokin and Coaldale (specifically, the Angela, which is still running, and is pictured on the movie theaters page). The internet is mum as to when it closed, but the sign, which looks very similar to the nearby Mahoning, collapsed within the last ten years. As you can guess from the splotches on the sign, the Natalie had a second life as a paint-ball facility, but that, too, went by the wayside. The screen is still visible through the trees.
The Boulevard Drive-In, Allentown, PA
The shot above is of the back of the screen, which I used to pass by every day. For years, this screen and an over-grown field were the only indications that there had been anything here, just off Union Boulevard, close to where the new baseball park resides. There is a new and impressive building that has been erected in the middle of the field where movies were shown from 1949 until 1985.
Temple Drive-In, Williamstown, PA
This sign collapsed within the last couple years. Click on the video above or go to the story on it I published last year.